Saturday, September 29, 2012

How to Make Contact with Your Inner Dialog



To become a more mindful,
more productive writer, you need to get in touch with your intrapersonal communication—that inner “babble” in which you are constantly talking to yourself. (Don’t worry: we all talk to ourselves.)

That inner talk is where you can find ideas for writing as well as the energy to continue writing projects.

Of course, meditation helps us with this. Meditation is all about noticing how in our constant self-talk we are sorting our experience (into good, bad, and indifferent) in the misguided but all-too-human attempt to make life comfortable for us.

Some of my writing students, however, say they are unable to notice when their minds depart from the present moment. They say they can’t notice their monkey minds. They have no idea what mindfulness feels like.

To help those students, I devised the following exercise. I hope it might be of some use to you. The first 10 steps are the set-up for the exercise.

1.      Go to a quiet location.

2.      Put a piece of paper and a pen or pencil beside you.

3.      Sit gently upright, hands resting either palms-up or palms-down on your knees.

4.      Scan your body for its feelings: where are you tense?

5.      With eyes gently focused on a spot a few feet away, begin watching your breathing.

6.      Notice the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your nose.

7.      Notice the sensation of the rise and fall of your torso.

8.      Breathing in, think to yourself, “Here.”

9.      Breathing out, think to yourself, “Now.”

10.  Continue to put your attention on your breathing.

Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered from watching your breath, briefly turn to your piece of paper. Jot down one of the following:

ü  FUTURE (for a distracting thought about the future moment after this meditation session)

ü  PAST (for a distracting thought about a time before this meditation session)

ü  EVALUATION (for any thought that judges your present circumstance—for instance, whether you are pleased, irritated, or bored with the Now)

Do this notation fairly quickly. Don’t make a big deal of it. After you note “future,” “past” or “evaluation,” return to watching your breathing.

The next time you find that you’re no longer watching your breathing, return to the piece of paper and again record one of those three words.

After 5-10 minutes, if you’re like the rest of us, your sheet is probably one long list of distractions.

Did you notice, however, a difference in experience? Did the moments in which you were blindly daydreaming suddenly stand apart from another set—ones in which you were more aware?

If so, you may be well on your way to tasting mindfulness. Maybe more importantly, what you succeeded in doing is shaking hands with your own inner conversation.

Next time, watch that conversation and ask it a question about your writing. A good start might be, “What would I like to write down, right now, in this moment?” Or, “What do you have to say to me about  Idea X?”







Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yoga for Hands

More often than not, thinking about the fingers as they type would probably do a stuck writer far more good than thinking about audience.

This is an exercise to draw attention to the Present moment and to be able to mindfully write.

Start with a brief seated meditation. With a gently tall posture, hands on your knees, breathing in, think to yourself, “Here.”  Breathing out, think to yourself, “Now.” When your mind wanders away from attention to the breath, guide it back.

Then move your hands to your keyboard and begin to freewrite. Freewriting means non-stop, non-judgmental writing intended for no audience but yourself. You could write about whatever is on your mind, or you could freewrite about a quote. I’ll pass you a quote now: “In the beginner’s mind, there are many options, in the expert’s, few” (Suzuki).

While you freewrite, continue to watch your breathing. Breathing in, “Here.” Breathing out, “Now.”

Keep freewriting but now turn your attention to the sensation of your finger pads touching the keys. Change the topic of your freewrite to describing that sensation. Do this for a minute. Then turn your attention to the sounds of typing, describing those sounds in your freewrite.

Keep typing. This time, notice how your bones are moving inside the typing fingers. Watch their complex activity.  Feel their movement. What would you compare this movement to?

Extend your attention now to your palm and the back of your hands as you type. Describe the sensations in the freewrite.

Then move to your wrists and lower arms.  Describe their sensations in the freewrite.

Move your attention—all the while watching your breath—to your torso and legs. Then to your shoulders and neck. Then to your face. Describe what you notice: how is the writing impacting that part of your body? What muscular sensations, changes in temperature, tensions, and so forth are present?

Continue to observe your breathing but now turn to your writing project for the day. You may find yourself calmer, more present-minded, and most importantly, more aware of your own inner dialog than when you started the yoga-for-hands.

Try these steps on another occasion—only switching to handwriting. The use of a pen or pencil will generate a whole different awareness of the present moment of writing.
(If you liked this post, try out "Corpse Pose for Writing" from 3/9/2015. It's another embodied writing technique.)